Exploring the Kentucky Junior Historical Society archives I found out that it all comes down to the yearly conference in Frankfort. Each KJHS student, teacher and sponsor carefully prepares throughout the year for this event. It’s a time of great excitement and happiness, but also anxiety. These conferences were two days in length, and were typically held at the Farnham Dudgeon Civil Center in downtown Frankfort. All members of KJHS were invited, and most schools sent representatives. Typically students from the 4th-12th grades came to these conferences. Currently the conference is held at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. In the future there are plans to hold the convention in Louisville and other locations throughout Kentucky.
Students created projects and activities including posters, artwork, arts and crafts, plays, songs, photography, research papers, and historic walking tours for their local area. All of these projects had to focus on a historical person, place or thing from Kentucky’s past. Many of the students dealt with popular topics, such as the Civil War, or local history, such as how their town was founded. The projects were then displayed and judged at the conference. Winners received a ribbon and a mention in the KJHS publication Kentucky Heritage.
Kentucky Heritage was published from 1965 until 2007. This magazine contained information on the projects KJHS members completed for each convention. Each issue’s front cover featured artwork drawn by a KJHS member that won an award at the convention. Receiving mention in Kentucky Heritage was a great honor for many KJHS members. Artwork wasn’t the only thing shown in this magazine: research papers, plays and poems were also printed. In 2007, Kentucky Heritage stopped publication. Timeline was created in the late 90’s and had become a replacement for the magazine. Much like its predecessor, Timeline keeps KJHS members informed of upcoming events, workshops, and of course, reminders for the yearly state convention. Two years ago, Timeline switched from print to online-only publication.
At every conference, students also campaigned for the offices of KJHS president, vice-president, treasurer, historian and reporter. These state representatives would help guide the organization until next year—when they would often seek reelection. Being a state representative for KJHS was a strange mix of politics and history. Not only did these students make decisions for future KJHS members, but they also created an organization that encouraged outreach among students and the community. This certainly proves that young people DO care about their history!
The centerpiece of past conventions has always been History Bowl. History Bowl is a contest between schools that asks questions about Kentucky’s past. It was very fast paced since many of these questions involved quick recall. There were three divisions: elementary, middle and high school, with two to three rounds to identify the final two schools in each division. As you can probably guess, History Bowl is still popular with the students since competing can be a huge boost to student morale.
Of course, not everything was about competition. KJHS conference gave students a chance to mingle with fellow KJHS members. Each convention had a mixer and dance for students to get to know each other. Since many of the members are from all over the state of Kentucky, these opportunities provided a great place to meet each year. I’m sure KJHS members (past and present) will not forget the memories made at KJHS conference.
Image 1: An example of a KJHS member presenting their project at a convention in 2008.
Image 2: Awards from the 1970 KJHS state convention.
Image 3: Picture of KJHS history bowl, 2008.